Manager Nigel Worthington believes the World Cup draw has handed Northern Ireland an exciting challenge.
Worthington's men are in qualifying Group F with Portugal, Russia, Israel, Azerbaijan and Luxembourg.
"It looks reasonably tough, but it could have been worse. There is a fair bit of travelling but you have to deal with that," said the NI manager.
"Russia have been a fantastic team for years, Israel are a tough nut to crack and we know the stars Portugal have."
The Republic of Ireland are in Group C with Germany, Sweden, Austria, the Faroe Islands and Kazakhstan.
The winners of the nine European groups qualify automatically and the eight best runners-up play off for the four places remaining.
Worthington added: "We will look at the home and away games against Luxembourg and Azerbaijan as ones we can take maximum points from. It is never easy until you have actually achieved that.
"Then it is a matter of taking as many as you can from the other three teams in the group.
"It is a brand new competition and a great thing for the supporters to look forward to."